Inequality in Apartheid Israel

Still true today is the 1961 observation of  Former South African President Hendrick Verwoerd that “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”

The following is excerpted from: The Inequality Report: The Palestinian Arab Minority in Israel, issued by Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel in March 2011.

• Inequalities between Arab [Palestinian citizens who are primarily Muslim and Christian] and Jewish citizens of Israel span all fields of public life and have persisted over time. Direct and indirect discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel is ingrained in the legal system and in governmental practice.

• The definition of the State of Israel as a Jewish state makes inequality and discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel a reality and a political project. The pairing of “Jewish” and “democratic” both codifies discrimination against non-Jewish citizens and impedes the realization of full equality.

• The State of Israel actively promote[s] and direct resources to Jewish citizens as a privileged majority within the “Jewish State”. In many policy areas, including the designation of “National Priority Areas” and the use of the military-service criterion to allocate resources, the state actively preserves and perpetuates inequalities between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel.

• More than 30 main laws discriminate, directly or indirectly, against Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the current government coalition has proposed a flood of new racist and discriminatory bills which are at various stages in the legislative process.

• Palestinian citizens of Israel are afforded differential and unequal treatment under Israeli law in the field of citizenship rights. A new law makes it possible to strip Israeli citizenship for various reasons related to alleged “disloyalty” to the state, … indirectly targeting the citizenship rights of Palestinian citizens. [While Jewish Israelis are free to bring their non-Israeli spouses with them to live in Israel, this does not apply to Palestinian citizen of Israel.]

• Palestinians citizens have unequal access and lower levels of participation than Jewish citizens in all spheres of public life and decision-making, [including] the judiciary, the legislature, government, [and] civil service. [This restricts their] access to decision-making processes and centers of power, and a diminished ability to redress inequality and discrimination.

• The Arab voice has become increasingly delegitimized in the Israeli political and legislative process: according to recent polls around one third of Jewish citizens agree that Arab citizens should be denied the rights to vote and to be elected to the Knesset, and more than half of Jewish teenagers would deprive Arabs of the right to be elected to the Knesset.

• The criminal justice system is regularly used as a means of delegitimizing political acts and expression by Palestinian citizens of Israel, including their elected political leadership. Several Arab Members of the Knesset have been indicted or had parliamentary privileges revoked for legitimate political activities and speech that falls within the scope of their work as elected representatives.

• The police routinely use force and arrest against Arab demonstrators as a deterrent in order to silence voices of protest. Anti-war protestors against the Israeli military operation “Cast Lead” in Gaza, mainly Arab citizens, … were subjected to serious police violence … disproportionate and systematic mass arrests, primarily on the pretext of their mere presence at the scene.

• Over half of Arab families in Israel are classified as poor, compared to an average poverty rate of one-fifth among all families in Israel. Gaps in income and poverty rates are directly related to institutional discrimination against Arab citizens in Israel.

 • Palestinian citizens of Israel often face discrimination in work opportunities, pay and conditions, both because of the inadequate implementation of equal-opportunity legislation and because of entrenched structural barriers. Palestinian citizens are also excluded from the labor force by the use of the military-service criterion as a condition for acceptance for employment, often when there is no connection between the nature of the work and military experience.  Unemployment rates remain significantly higher among Arab than among Jewish citizens.

• In continuation of a pattern that was established with the founding of the state in 1948, Palestinian citizens of Israel continue to be deprived of access and use of the land under long-standing and more recent land laws and policies. Furthermore, new measures … aim at confirming state ownership of land confiscated from Palestinians in perpetuity and blocking Palestinian restitution claims.

• Arab towns and villages in Israel suffer from severe overcrowding, with Arab municipalities exercising jurisdiction over only 2.5% of the total area of the state [although Palestinian citizen s make up 20% of Israel’s population]. Since 1948, the State of Israel has established approxi-mately 600 Jewish municipalities, whereas no new Arab village, town or city has ever been built.

• Admissions committees operate in around 700 agricultural and community towns and filter out Arab applicants, on the basis of their “social unsuitability”, from future residency in these towns. Th[is] e contributes to the institutionalization of racially segregated towns and villages throughout the state and perpetuates unequal access to the land.

• Israel is currently intensifying its efforts to forcibly evacuate the unrecognized villages in the Naqab (referred to as “illegal clusters”), including by demolishing entire villages, as recently witnessed in the repeated demolition of the village of Al-Araqib. In pursuing this policy, the state has rejected the option of affording recognition to these villages, many of which predate the establishment of Israel. Between 75,000 and 90,000 Arab Bedouin live in the unrecognized villages in the Naqab, whom the state characterizes as “trespassers on state land”.

• State funding to Arab schools in Israel falls far behind that provided to Jewish schools. According to official state data published in 2004, the state provides three times as much funding to Jewish students as to Arab pupils. Arab students [and academics] are dramatically underrepresented in Israel’s universities and other institutes of higher education.

• Arab citizens of Israel can expect to live shorter lives than Jewish citizens (about four years less) and face significantly higher mortality rates, particularly after the age of 60. The rate of infant mortality among Palestinian citizens is approximately double that among Jewish citizens. Various barriers, including the lack of clinics and hospitals in Arab towns and villages and limitations on mobility, mean that Palestinian citizens are frequently unable to exercise the [right accorded to all Israeli citizens] to the highest sustainable standard of health.


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